Gathered For The Launch
Unplugged, off life support. He didn't die right away. It took longer than expected. His wife of over sixty years took his hand and squeezed it. She wondered if he could feel her touch. She jumped a little when he held on. A smile attacked her face and the sorrow in her heart lifted a little. In his mind they walked on the beach on a sunny day, and sand was getting in between their toes as they started to giggle like school children.
Suddenly his mind took him to a battlefield. There they caught and tortured German soldiers for the hell of it. He looked into the eyes of his enemy and started a violent torture, the enemy cried, tears streaming down his face on a grayish September morning.
That afternoon cooled, and the grim details of his war days spilled out. He had flash backs and memories of his unit blowing up homes and churches. Taking pot-shots at the flaming, flailing church goers who raced out of the burning buildings.
He would also set fire to the prison camps where he killed hundreds of German soldiers who were prisoners of war. He'd tell his superiors that the fires were caused by the prisoners and his first priority was to save his unit.
German officials were assassinated by his unit and women and children were killed in the cross-fire. His heart was made of cold stone as he killed his enemy without a small glimmer of remorse. One day he watched Jewish families being led away to unknown destinations and he refused to save them because he didn't want to care for them. He just liked killing.
Night fell, the temperature in that particular September dropped. His best friend walked into his tent with a couple of beers. He thought his best friend was an enemy soldier so he shot him twice in the head. He realized his mistake, but his cold heart took over. For a brief moment he looked strained, but an expression of grim held him tight. He and his buddy were the same age, and they went to high school together. They had a great deal in common. But war was war.
He would dump the body somewhere behind enemy lines. It would be found, of course, and there will be an investigation and both sides would attack. His friend's death would have had nothing to do with murder, and it would have been labeled simply as casualties of war.
He would return home as a hero and everyone cheered him. He would meet his wife and the dreaded past would disappear. He would never think of the war again. The shooting, the killing, the torture and the pain would just vanish.
A blind, frail woman stood in front of him carrying a torch. The darkness fell upon him as he just glared at the blind woman. She led him down the hall to a large wooden door that stood at the end. She timely knocked and a deep voice had hauntingly echoed enter. The frail woman pushed him through and he fell on the cold marble floor.
A bit breathless he looked up and saw his best friend sitting at a desk that was three sizes too small. His friend was reading all the sins he committed during war times and each sin struck a chord in his heart.
In the corner, amidst a pile of broken bones, crushed skulls and dried human skin was a glass box that contained his heart. It was beating slowly and with little movement. That's when he realized there would be no forgiveness. His sins were collected and gathered for the launch.
© 2015 Frank Atanacio
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